On the Road Again: Driving Evaluation Q & A

Zipping to the grocery store or a coffee shop is something many of us take for granted. For some, the demands of driving are significantly more daunting. Jan Stephanides, MS, OTR/L, CDRS, CDI, an occupational therapist and certified driving rehabilitation specialist at CarePartners, answers common questions about driving evaluations.

Q. Who might need a driving evaluation and training?

A. Safely maneuvering a car requires a complex set of physical, visual and decision-making abilities. Changes in health status from stroke, neuropathy, head injury, muscular sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and low vision can affect our ability to drive. Special needs youth with ADHD, autism or Asperger syndrome working toward earning their license can also benefit. The information learned in the evaluation can help people better understand their driving strengths and weaknesses as well as understand why these difficulties occur in their daily life.

Q. What is involved with the driver’s evaluation?

A. A driving evaluation with CarePartners is a two-part evaluation, lasting about one hour per segment. During the in-clinic evaluation, muscle strength, range of motion, sharpness of vision and decision-making skills are assessed. The second test takes place behind the wheel in a vehicle with a training brake (or dual controls). Driving begins on low-traffic roads and progresses to highways, if appropriate. The evaluation findings are sent to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and your treating physician.

Q. Do you provide training for the adaptions and modifications you recommend?

A. Yes. Since the CarePartners vehicle can be outfitted with different adaptions, clients can try these devices before purchasing them. Drivers who can no longer use their feet to control their car’s gas and brakes can test hand controls. Other possible devices include pedal extensions, steering wheel modifications, and seating and mirror adjustments. Drivers who need practice can enhance their skills to analyze intersections, perform basic driving maneuvers or problem solve while driving. The CarePartners vehicle can also be used in the DMV driving test, while using the adaptive equipment.

Q. Are there any other considerations about adaptions?

A. It’s important for devices to be purchased from and installed by reputable companies, so there is no question about the equipment functioning properly before actually driving the car.

Q. Can you help people with vision issues?

A. Our low-vision specialist and driving evaluator team up to offer bioptic driving. Driving with bioptic lenses can help individuals with mild-to-moderate visual conditions regain their driving independence.

To learn more the CarePartners Driver’s Evaluation program or schedule a driver’s evaluation appointment, call 828-274-6100 or visit carepartners.org.

By Cheri Hinshelwood